Sam Hutchens: Ollie Gordon and Nick Martin have minuscule Bedlam experience. Alan Bowman has none. OSU’s vets and coaches are giving those players sage advice about playing in the big game.
Collin Oliver went to high school in Edmond, about halfway between Stillwater and Norman. OSU’s linebacker is reminded of his roots every year at Bedlam time with a bevy of texts and calls. Friends on both sides of the rivalry beg him to play well, or joke with him about playing poorly.
The junior Bedlam hero — a title Oliver earned two years ago by sacking OU’s Caleb Williams to seal an OSU win — said he’s learned to avoid the noise. Players must become hermits, even if it’s just for Bedlam week.
“I’ve had to block it out for these past three years … I don’t respond to any of that,” Oliver said.
So how did you educate starting quarterback Alan Bowman, leading rusher Ollie Gordon and leading tackler Nickolas Martin about starring in a Bedlam game for the first time?
“Not to educate them,” Oliver said. “At all.”
Gordon has just seven carries for 13 yards in one game against OU. He’s never played the Sooners in Stillwater. Martin didn’t record a stat in his only game against OU last year, and Bowman, a transfer, will play his first Bedlam on Saturday.
It’s a trio that has been a big part of OSU’s four-game winning streak, but they are experienced in Bedlam.
Like Bowman, tackle Dalton Cooper will be making his Bedlam debut. Cooper said coaches and players haven’t been talking up the stakes or importance of the last rivalry.
Externally, too, coaches have downplayed the moment. Coach Mike Gundy said that OSU’s win against Kansas State at the start of OSU’s four-game win streak was technically bigger because it got OSU rolling.
“I would like to build (Bedlam) up as something,” Gundy said. “I just don’t know how much any of that plays a role. People say it’s a big game, I mean, and I’ve said this for years, every game is a big game or the end of the year doesn’t become a big game.”
Defensive tackle Collin Clay admitted that treating it like just another game is difficult, but said Gundy’s words have resonated with him.
“Everybody’s ramped up about it due it being Bedlam, but like I said, we just have to treat it like another game,” Clay said. “You can’t do something different than we’ve been doing.”
Keeping performances the same in Bedlam is something OSU will take from Gordon, Martin and Bowman. In their past two games, Gordon has averaged 276.5 rushing yards and Martin has averaged 14.5 tackles.
“I have no question Ollie’s going handle (the Bedlam pressure) the right way,” Oliver said. “He’s a great kid. He’s gonna continue to improve and he’s gonna continue to get more love. Him, Nick, all those guys. I hope they just ball out.”